The Ukrainian Trap, part 3

Zelensky’s last chance to stay alive

For Zelensky, the Ukrainian trap created with his most active participation, has finally slammed shut, and he has little chance of staying alive until the end of 2024.

Vladimir Putin’s statement that Zelensky has legally ceased to be the legitimate president of Ukraine does not only mean that no document signed by Zelensky from this time onwards, will be considered legal by the Kremlin, or that Putin will not negotiate with Zelensky, but also that Moscow now does not consider itself obligated to take into account security of Zelensky as legitimate head of state on whose territory Russia is conducting its special military operation.

Prior to this statement, throughout the war, wherever Zelensky appeared, including on the front positions with the most active fighting, the Russian armed forces used to stop launching artillery or airstrikes. Now the security umbrella over Zelensky has disappeared, and Russian troops and intelligence services can carry out strikes without worrying about the pre-existing security guarantees for the Ukrainian president. For the Kremlin, now there is no Ukrainian president.

Vladimir Putin did not say all this openly, but given Putin’s character and his manner of speaking in hints, his habit of avoiding unnecessary disturbance of opponents or provoking violent reactions from them, his last statement about Zelensky’s illegitimacy was extremely harsh and had clear meaning, primarily in possible consequences.

Putin addressed his statement to less extent, to Zelensky, more to his close circle, but first of all, Putin’s statement was addressed to all Ukrainians, as well as to the West, BRICS, and other countries involved in the conflict.

According to the reaction of Western countries, Putin’s statement was not understood by politicians in the US, UK and EU as Putin had expected. This can be explained by civilizational differences in mentality, and in particular, in relation to the factor of legitimacy of political leadership, the Head of State.

In the West, doubts and disputes around legitimacy of president or ruler, do not play the role that such doubts play in Russia or other states of the former Russian Empire. In the United States or European countries, if Court takes decision to recognize election results and legitimacy of State leader, then Western society accepts that decision, regardless of whether the majority of the population agrees with it.

In Russia, the legitimacy of tsar, or State leader has always been the most important political factor. “The Tsar is not real!” – that was the call that more than once in the history of Russia led to unrest and uprisings. The task of convincing the people of the full legitimacy of ruler was always the main task of the center of power of the Russian civilizational system. There could be no government without legitimacy. The Tsar must be real — the Russians, and after them all the peoples of the former Russian Empire, deeply believed and still believe in that.

In the West, most people believe that Zelensky has retained his legitimacy and remains the president of Ukraine. During a war country cannot always afford to hold elections, so the leader in wartime has every right to extend his powers.

So far, the majority of Ukrainians also consider Zelensky their legitimate president, however, there is important point to be taken into consideration.

Western democracy is more appealing to most Ukrainians than Russian imperialism. And the majority of Ukrainians sincerely want to become part of European democracy, but the understanding of democracy by Ukrainians and, for example, the British, does not coincide and does not come even close.

European democracy is governed by laws that consolidate agreements between social strata and groups reached as result of their struggle with each other for their interests and rights. The law is the inviolable basis of European democracy.

Ukrainian traditional democracy that has been preserved for centuries, when Ukraine was part of other states, is called “volnitsa” (“freedom of choices”, or “freedom of decisions”). It has its roots in the traditions of the Zaporozhye Cossacks and implies the right of Ukrainians to make decisions that can, if necessary, cancel previously made decisions.

By voting, the Cossacks decided to go to war or not, and on whose side to fight. By voting they elected as their ataman, and took decisions about replacing atamans that lost confidence.

In modern Ukraine, the active majority determines policy and decides the fate of government. At present moment, the number of Ukrainians dissatisfied with the authorities and Zelensky personally, according to official polls, is close to half of the population. This is not critical for Zelensky yet. But if the number of those dissatisfied with his actions exceeds 60-70%, and if discontent takes hold of influential clans and factions in the army, then this will create insurmountable problems for him, and the factor of doubt about his legitimacy will begin to play decisive role.

Zelensky refused not only to hold presidential elections, but also to confirm his legitimacy by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. He received no guarantee that the Constitutional Court would confirm his legitimacy. Any conflict with the Constitutional Court on this issue will inevitably lead to a split in Ukraine that Zelensky is trying to avoid.

He hopes to cope with the Kremlin refusing to recognize his legitimacy, but cannot allow his illegitimacy to be recognized by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

However, Zelensky underestimates the threat coming from the outside world.

Zelensky’s legitimacy is denied not only by Russia and its allies, like Belarus, Iran, North Korea, but also by other countries. Zelensky’s legitimacy is being rejected or questioned by China, South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and this list is expanding.

At the summit in Switzerland, that Zelensky planned to use to work out “formula for peace in Ukraine,” the split in the world community into those who recognize Zelensky’s legitimacy and do not recognize him as the president of Ukraine will take shape.

Leaders of the countries that will continue to recognize Zelensky as the legitimate president of Ukraine will come to Switzerland. Those who do not recognize his legitimacy will not come to Switzerland, including those, who will send their representatives of the second or third level trying not to irritate Washington and Brussels. In this situation, President Biden personally coming to the summit or ignoring the summit becomes especially important for Zelensky.

The greatest threats to Zelensky’s life come from two factors: internal, Ukrainian, and Russian.

Those who now control the military and security forces in Russia, heard Putin well and understood him properly. Putin doesn’t even need to order Zelensky’s killing. Putin made it clear that Zelensky can now be considered as target, and the killing Zelensky and his entourage will now not be considered in the Kremlin as crime and betrayal of Russian interests.

The Russian military, especially the former Ukrainian citizens from Donbass, hate Zelensky, and there are thousands of them in the Russian army. Many want to avenge the death of relatives and friends. Officers from the Russian Federation, whose colleagues and comrades have already died in battles in Ukraine, feel no less hatred for Zelensky. Many of them will have no doubts if they have chance to kill Zelensky. The same can be said about most of the Russian intelligence officers.

Moreover, Putin has removed and continues to remove generals from the Ministry of Defense and security services, who were pro-Western or linked to the West with economic, financial and personal interests. Their places are taken by generals who are ready to fight mercilessly not only with Ukraine, but also with the West. These generals will now decide the fate of the leadership in Kiev.

Liquidation of Zelensky may be carried out as direct and demonstrative act, but it can be organized in such a way that there would no direct evidence of the involvement of the Russian armed forces and intelligence services. The form and method will depend on the international situation and the level of instability in Ukraine, on the scale of protests by the population and political clans in Kiev who are dissatisfied with the war, and the spirits in the Ukrainian army.

Of course, there are factors that the Kremlin has to take into account. However, these factors are quickly losing their meaning and power.

The Kremlin takes into consideration that Zelensky’s death could lead to indignation and protests in world community, especially in the West. However, such a reaction may be leveled out if events occur that justify attacks on command centers in Kiev.

That could be massive and brutal strikes on Russian cities that result in death of many civilians, or on strategic targets that according to international laws and rules, can be regarded as reason for retaliatory strike on the decision-making centers of those countries that participated in organizing attacks.

That will create threat of a full-scale war between Russia and some Western countries, or NATO. In the situation of clear and direct threat of world war, a blow to the military and political power center in Ukraine, to the leadership that has ceased to be legitimate, may seem and be regarded even in the West as the lesser of two evils.

However, the most important factor for Zelensky is the internal Ukrainian situation, the mood of the people and the army, and all that depends on the results of the summer military campaign.

Will Zelensky be able to stop the destruction of Ukraine’s energy system and economy? Will the Ukrainian authorities be able to carry out total mobilization, and will the Ukrainian army stop the advance of the Russian army and launch counter-offensive? Will Western assistance provide Kyiv with the necessary level of armaments and provide acceptable standard of living for the population, or will impoverishment continue and accelerate? Will Zelensky be able to provide the population with heat and energy to survive the coming winter?

Negative answers to these questions — even to one of them — mean the end of Zelensky. “President is not real!” – that call could lead to the ruthless removal of Zelensky and very sad consequences for him and his close circle.

And that will bring the collapse of modern Ukraine that now not only Russia is interested in. The Ukrainian Trap is still in operation…

(To be continued)

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